“Let me see if I have this correct, Lieutenant - it's an 8-foot creature of some kind with acid for blood, and it arrived on your spaceship. It kills on sight, and is generally unpleasant. And of course, you expect me to accept all this on your word.”
If you’re watching this third installment of the Alien series, this description of the title character should seem just about right. Well, “generally unpleasant” might be putting it mildly. David Fincher takes control of the series for the third movie and carries the torch pretty well for what we’ve come to expect. Fincher’s direction is darker than Cameron’s and has more action than Scott’s, so it brings something new to the franchise.
The movie finds Lieutenant Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) fighting the familiar alien scourge of the universe. This time she has crash-landed on Fury-161, a derelict prison installation with a custodial crew of 25 prisoners. Following this brief introduction – in either version you watch, theatrical or extended – things progress pretty quickly. The small group must band together to fight off the terrifying hitchhiker. Oh, and to make things a bit more challenging, since they were all once prisoners, they don’t have any real weapons (save for a few small knives and fire axes).
Regarding the narrative, Ripley makes friends with the prison doctor, Clemens (Charles Dance), and eventually the leader of the prisoners, Dillon (Charles S. Dutton, in a great performance). Clemens gives us our love interest for Ripley and Dillon gives us the strong leadership needed to get a group of violent male criminals to follow the plan of a female officer. With the final plan in place, we get some really great shots from Fincher as our even smaller team run around small dark corridors with our new alien menace.
Fans of the series will be interested to find that the alien itself is different than the previous two versions; this is due to a different origin (no spoilers here though). The only real distraction from an otherwise great final third to the series is the CGI alien. Released in 1992, a year prior to the CGI powerhouse Jurassic Park, Fincher’s CGI alien leaves something to be desired. The animatronics are seamless, but a few brief CGI shots reveal an alien form that disrupts our suspension of disbelief – sporting a greenish hue and patterns of light and shadow that are inconsistent with other features of the scene. Although I remember seeing this movie when it came out and thought it looked great, but it really doesn’t hold up well to the passage of time.
Overall, what you get from this movie is a very good story, great filmmaking with some very cool shots, and a slightly disappointing CGI monster. All in all, this is a very good addition the series. This was the first Alien movie that I saw and it came out right as my parents were starting to let me watch what I wanted. As such for a long time this was my favorite of the Alien series. In the early 90’s, Ridley Scott’s movie felt like a 70’s style movie compared to the new movies I was watching, where as Cameron’s movie felt like a warm-up to Terminator 2 (since I saw his Alien film after I had seen T2).
The video is a 1080p rendering and the transfer comes across very clean and it's presented with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The quality of the overall transfer doesn’t help the CGI alien, if anything you can see the clear crisp lines of it even clearer. There is nothing that seems overly impressive with the video but it certainly isn’t a negative aspect of the blu-ray.
The audio however did leave something to be desired even though Alien 3 is equipped with an English DTS-HD Master 5.1 Surround audio transfer. Unlike the previous movies, the dialogue on this one was sub-par. The loud action and screams were in stark contrast the whispered hushed dialogue. The rest of the audio was crisp and clear. I just felt the need to turn it up when there were dialogue driven portions of the movie.
The extras again aren’t quite as nice as we’ve seen from the previous two installments, but they aren’t bad either.
I watched both versions of the movie. This was the first time that I had seen the 2003 extended version, and uncharacteristically for me, I enjoyed the theatrical version better. I think the extended version, not a director’s cut, is simply extended to be different. It didn’t seem to add anything to the story or the universe. It is about a half hour longer, so there is more, but I didn’t feel more connected to the characters or story for the extra time spent. The extended version also changes some parts of the story for the worse, the alien host and ending in particular.
Alien 3 is a very good movie. For me it takes me back to the first R-rated movie series that I was able to choose and like as a teenager. Since it was the first of the series that I had seen the third movie will always have a special place for me, even though I now see it as third best. The continuing story of Ripley and how she fights off a terrifying alien and an even more terrifying human corporation will always be a winning recipe to me. This is certainly a worthy addition to any sci-fi/horror collection.